South Africa: Pirates sneak title ahead of Ajax
Orlando Pirates sneaked the South African ABSA Premiership title by virtue of goal difference and cruelly denied Ajax Cape Town the championship in the process.
With two points separating Ajax, who led the table going into the final round of matches, from the Pirates it seemed that the former would clinch their maiden title, especially given that they were at home to Maritzburg United who were languishing in the bottom half of the table. Orlando Pirates had to win their game at home to the Golden Arrows and hope that Ajax would drop points.
With both games being played at the same time Ajax Cape Town knew that they held the advantage at half-time as they were leading 1-0 thanks to a 43rd minute Khama Billiat goal whilst the Pirates were being held to a 1-1 draw in their game against Golden Arrows, Bongani Ndulula (Pirates) and Collins Mbesuma (Arrows) trading goals in the first half. After the break, however, the nerves started to show amongst the Ajax players as they allowed the visiting Maritzburg team into the game with goals from Gert Schalkwyk and Diyo Sibisi giving United the lead with twenty minutes remaining. As long as Orlando weren’t winning then even a defeat wouldn’t prove to be too devastating for Ajax.
The last ten minutes of the season for both teams sealed their fate. Orlando Pirates took a 2-1 lead against the Golden Arrows in the 84th minute with Isaac Chansa sending the home fans wild whilst, almost immediately, Ajax Cape Town equalized in their game with Sameegh Doutie restoring hope to his side’s supporters with four minutes remaining on the clock. There would be no more goalscoring action and the table showed both Orlando and Ajax as having 60 points each so the league was decided on goal difference. This was where the Pirates had the upper hand as they sneaked it with a superior difference of four goals; Orlando had an 18+ goal margin with Ajax only 14 goals better off and so it was that Orlando Pirates were crowned South African champions for the third time.